Stolen Life, A (1946): Curtis Bernhardt’s Melodrama, Starring Bette Davis in Double Role

German emigre Curtis Bernhardt directed A Stolen Life, a star vehicle of Bette Davis in a dual role, and remake of a 1939 British film “Stolen Life,” starring Elisabeth Bergner and Michael Redgrave. 

The Screenplay was penned by Catherine Turney and Margaret Buell Wilder, based on the 1935 novel, “A Stolen Life” by Karel Josef Benes.

In the first scene, Kate Bosworth (Davis), a sincere, demure artist, misses her boat to an island off New England, where she is supposed to meet her twin sister Patricia (also Davis) and her cousin Freddie (Charlie Ruggles).

She persuades Bill Emerson (Glenn Ford) to take her home in his boat. Later, their relationship grows while she paints a portrait of Eben Folger (Walter Brennan), the old lighthouse keeper.

Kate is very much in love, however, her sister Pat, a flamboyant manipulator, fools Bill when she first meets him pretending to be Kate. Pat then pursues him on a trip out of town, and when they return, they announce their plan to get married.

Kate, heartbroken, focuses on her work with artist Karnock (Dane Clark), but rejects his romantic overtures.

Bill eventually goes to Chile, allowing Kate to spend some time with her sister, whom she hasn’t seen since the marriage.

When the two go sailing, a sudden storm washes Pat overboard and she drowns, her wedding ring coming off in Kate’s hands while trying to save her. Kate passes out and is washed ashore in the boat. When she regains consciousness, she is mistaken for Pat.

Bill is about to return, so Kate decides to assume her late sister’s identity.  She then learns that Bill is actually angry at Pat for her adulterous affairs and in no mood to continue the marriage.

Having guessed the truth, Cousin Freddie insists that Kate reveal to Bill her real identity.  In the happy ending, Bill finally realizes that Kate is the one who he truly loves.

Though not one of Davis’ best melodramas, her very presence elevates the film above its conventional plot trappings.

The year of 1946 was crucial in the evolution of Glenn Ford as a leading man, also appearing in the cult noir, Gilda, opposite Rita Hayworth.

Warner gave Stolen Life a lavish production, marked by clear imagery and melodic score from the ever reliable Max Steiner.

Oscar Nominations: 1

The film was nominated for Best Special Effects (William C. McGann; Special Audible Effects by Nathan Levinson), but lost out to the British comedy, Blithe Spirit.

Made on a budget of 2.2 million, the film was a commercial success, earning $3.2 domestically and $1.5 internationally.

Davis played another set of twin sisters in Dead Ringer (1964).


Bette Davis as Kate and Patricia Bosworth
Glenn Ford as Bill Emerson
Dane Clark as Karnock
Walter Brennan as Eben Folger
Charlie Ruggles as Freddie Linley
Bruce Bennett as Jack R. Talbot
Peggy Knudsen as Diedre
Esther Dale as Mrs. Johnson
Clara Blandick as Martha
Joan Winfield as Lucy


Music by: Max Steiner
Cinematography: Ernest Haller, Sol Polito
Edited by Rudi Fehr
Production: B.D. Production
Distributed by Warner
Release date: July 6, 1946
Running time: 109 minutes


I was able to refresh my memories of this melodrama, when it was shown on TCM, on October 21, 2019.